Monday, January 11, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 102: Pia Wilson

Pia Wilson

Hometown: Hillside, NJ

Current Town: Montclair, NJ

Q:  Tell me about the reading you have coming up in Harlem.

A:  I'm going to be a part of Classical Theatre of Harlem's Future Classics reading series with my play, RED ROOSTER. We're going to be at The Schomburg Center on January 20th at 7pm. 

I really love this play.  It's about a Hurricane Katrina survivor and her hopes for a new home.  It was inspired by a trip I took to New Orleans about 18 months after Katrina hit.  When I went into the Ninth Ward, it looked like Katrina had hit the day before.  Talking to the people, they said they needed the story told.  They didn't think people in the rest of the country knew how much they were still suffering.  This is partially my way of telling the story.  The play is also infused with family stories, since both of my parents were from the South: Mom, Alabama, and Dad, South Carolina.

Q:  You're a part of the Public's Emerging Writers Group.  What's that like?

A:  It's like being part of this really talented family.  Before I was in the EWG, I was sort of an island in the theater community.  With the EWG, I'm part of an intimate community of artists, and through the EWG, I was introduced to the NYC theater community at large.  And the theater community is just full of some fun people!

During our year, we met some fantastic playwrights.  We also got to observe two shows behind the scenes.  So, I got to watch Oskar Eustis direct HAMLET and Liesl Tommy direct THE GOOD NEGRO.  They were amazing experiences, and I got to work with Liesl on my EWG reading in June 2009.  Don't ask me what kind of deal I had to make with the Devil to make out like that.

I really view The Public as my artistic home.  Mandy Hackett, Liz Frankel and Lisa Kopitsky all worked so hard to make sure we felt like a family.  And we do!

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  Well, there is no one story that explains who I am as a writer. I meandered about, experimenting with different kinds of writing, until I hit on playwriting, which was right for me.

If I remember correctly, I started writing poems in a class in grade school because we were making calendars for our parents.  The teacher really loved my poems and so did my parents.  From that point on, my mom and dad pretty much decided writing was my gift from God and that it should be encouraged.  My entire family -- brother, aunts, uncles and cousins -- pretty much accepted that as fact, and there was never a moment I wasn't encouraged to write. 

I remember one line from a poem I wrote in 7th or 8th grade.  I was in the Hillside Enrichment Program, and some of us got to take a summer course at Montclair State University.  The courses were just for us kids though.  We were asked to write a poem in which each line of the poem described a color in the rainbow.  I don't know what kind of dark rainbows I was looking at, but the last line of my poem said, "Black is silence."

Q:  What is Pia Quarterly?  Where can I get my copy?

A:  Ha! Pia Quarterly is my blog for now, though I do plan to publish an issue or two!  You can help me write it. 

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I am a big fan of plays with rich characters and a message.  I like political plays, and that doesn't mean you're getting lectured. For instance, I think David Henry Hwang's YELLOW FACE is a brilliant discussion on race.  It's funny and has a strong human element.

Tracey Scott Wilson's THE GOOD NEGRO was a great piece of work to me.  Well-crafted with a beautiful realism to it.  I actually felt like I was watching a piece of history unfold on stage.  The story was strong as was the message behind it.

I like plays with heart like Eisa Davis' ANGELA'S MIXTAPE.  It also asked the question of "Who am I in relation to my family?" It was a fun, engaging piece. 

Q:  What advice do you have for writers just starting out?

A:  For writers just starting out, I'd advise them to read some books on drama writing.  Look at your scripts with a hard cold eye.  Read them out loud to hear them.  Then start rewriting.  The writing is in the rewriting.  Don't hand over a piece of work, promising to fix it later. 

On the fun side, get out at mix and mingle.  Go see plays and get to know the community.  The New York theater community is wonderful. 

Oh! And write how you write -- not what you think people are going to produce.  Have an artistic vision and be yourself.

Q:  Any plugs?

A:  Aside from the reading with The Classical Theatre of Harlem, I'm also going to be a part of three short play festivals in February:

- A GODDESS ONCE will be part of Horse Trade Theater Group's The Fire This Time Festival (Feb. 4-7) in NYC.
- WHATEVER AND DELICATELY will be part of Teatro del Pueblo's Political Theatre Festival (Feb. 18 - March 7) in Minnesota
- THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RED SEA will be part of Three Monos Ensemble's Minutes Before... Short Play Festival (Feb. 28) in NYC.

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